PD Endorsement: Yes on 28: Kids deserve arts in school
A well-rounded education might start with language and math, science and history. But it is not complete without the arts, and on that score too many California schoolchildren are getting shortchanged.
Children deserve an opportunity to discover and develop their creative talents. Students also hone cognitive and critical thinking skills, and research shows that students in arts classes tend to do better in other subjects and are less likely to miss school. Arts education also correlates to better mental and physical well-being.
California already requires public schools to provide instruction in subjects such as painting, ceramics, filmmaking, dance, music and drama, and high school students must complete at least one arts class to graduate.
Yet when budgets get tight, these programs are often the first to go.
As a result, barely 1 in 5 California elementary schools has a full-time arts and music program.
Proposition 28 on the Nov. 8 ballot is about ensuring that California students get quality arts classes — without raising taxes.
Here’s how it would work: California earmarks approximately 40% of the state general fund for public education — transitional kindergarten through community college — under Proposition 98, a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1988.
For the current fiscal year, schools will receive $95.5 billion.
Proposition 28 requires the Legislature to allocate an amount equal to 1% of the annual Proposition 98 guarantee for arts programs in public schools. If that was the law now, schools would have received $950 million this year specifically for visual and performing arts.
The arts money would be on top of the $95.5 billion budgeted for schools.
Proposition 28 is sponsored by Austin Beutner, a former Los Angeles school superintendent, who told the editorial board that parents consistently asked for more arts classes in their schools. Art, he said, “isn’t the sprinkles on top of the sundae.”
Proposition 28, as Beutner concedes, is an example of ballot-box budgeting.
We are skeptical of ballot initiatives that mandate spending without providing a source of revenue, thus limiting flexibility of elected policymakers.
In this instance, however, we are persuaded that lawmakers and school boards have failed to adequately fund arts education, and that Proposition 28 is narrowly tailored to fulfill its purpose with little impact on other programs.
In this year’s budget, $950 million would be just 0.4% of the general fund.
“We think the state with record revenue, record surplus, and even in a time of tight budgets, can find .4%,” Beutner said.
Decisions about spending Proposition 28 money would be made by individual schools. Money would be allocated based on enrollment, with a larger share for schools with a large proportion of low-income students. Proposition 28 requires schools to spend at least 80% of their money on art and music teachers and aides, with the remainder available for training and supplies and partnerships with arts organizations. Only 1% could be spent on administrative costs.
“Every child will benefit,” Beutner said, “all 6 million kids in public schools.”
There is no organized opposition to Proposition 28, probably because so many people understand the visual and performing arts are an essential part of education. Arts classes introduce children to culture and offer a path to careers in architecture and design, film, television and technology. The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Proposition 28.
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